Turkey says a deal to resume Black Sea grain exports to Ukraine will be signed on Friday

ISTANBUL/United Nations, July 21 (Reuters) – Ukraine, Russia, Turkey and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres will sign an agreement on Friday to resume Ukraine’s Black Sea grain exports, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan’s office said on Thursday.

Both Russia and Ukraine are major global wheat suppliers, but Moscow’s Feb. 24 invasion of its neighbors has pushed up food prices and sparked an international food crisis. The war has halted Guy’s exports, leaving dozens of ships stranded and 20 million tons of grain trapped in pits in Odessa port.

Ankara said a general agreement had been reached on the UN-led plan during talks in Istanbul last week, which would now be published in writing by the parties. Details of the deal were not immediately available. It will be signed at 1330 GMT on Friday at the Dolmabas Palace offices, Erdogan’s office said.

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There was no immediate confirmation from Moscow.

The Kiev government also did not confirm that a deal had been struck. The Foreign Ministry said late Thursday that another round of UN-led talks on curbing Ukrainian grain exports will be held in Turkey on Friday.

Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said last week that the agreement to be signed would include joint controls to check exports at ports. Turkey will also set up a coordination center with Ukraine, Russia and the United Nations for grain exports.

Before the July 13 talks, diplomats said in details of the plan that Ukrainian vessels would guide grain ships in and out of mined port waters; Russia agrees to a truce while exports move; And Turkey — backed by the United Nations — is inspecting the ships to allay Russian fears of arms smuggling.

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The US welcomed the deal and said it was focused on holding Russia accountable for its implementation.

“We should never have been in this position,” said US State Department spokesman Ned Price. “This was a deliberate decision on the part of the Russian Federation to weaponize food.”

The United Nations and Turkey have been working for two months to broker what Guterres called a “package” deal — to resume Ukraine’s Black Sea grain exports and facilitate Russian grain and fertilizer exports.

Ukraine’s Deputy Agriculture Minister Taras Vysotskyi said on Thursday that Ukraine may resume exports soon.

“Most of the infrastructure of the vast Odesa ports – there are three of them – remains, so it will take several weeks if there are proper security guarantees,” he told Ukrainian television.

Moscow has denied responsibility for exacerbating the food crisis, instead blaming a chilling effect on Western sanctions that have reduced its own food and fertilizer exports and Ukraine’s mining of its Black Sea ports.

A day after talks in Istanbul last week, the United States sought to facilitate Russian food and fertilizer exports by assuring banks, shipping and insurance companies that such transactions would not violate Washington’s sanctions on Moscow over Ukraine. read more

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Report by Michael Nicholls; Additional reporting by Natalia Sinets in Kyiv, Yesim Digmen in Istanbul, and Simon Lewis in Washington; Editing by Susan Hevey and Jonathan Otis

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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